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climate change : ALP blinks « Previous | |Next »
October 31, 2007

So Labor blinked on climate change after being verballed on the issue earlier this week. Somehow an emissions trading scheme has slipped in the background in the political debate around climate change, in which Howard has been punching away at the ALP's credentials.

Alan Moir

We do not hear anything about the level of emissions being capped at declining levels to enable investment decisions or the temperature increase tipping point. What we do hear about is Australia's post Kyoto position, which is way in the future. What will Australia do if the developing countries refuse to sign up? Will Australia sign up? Or will it refuse until the developing countries are on board. The ALP ducked and weaved and retreated under pressure.

John Howard has jammed Kevin Rudd into retreating from Peter Garrett's pledge that a Labor government would ratify the Kyoto Protocol, even if there were no firm commitments for greenhouse gas emission reductions from China and India. This indicates that Howard is going to continue trying to wear Rudd down with his punches, unsettle him, and hope that he cracks under pressure.

As Peter Tucker observes at Tasmanian Politics though climate change is definitely a big Labor issue with a strong public resonance under Garrett they are not maximising their return. Howard has escape from the corner.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 1:26 AM | | Comments (18)


Aspects of this debate have entered the stupid area or perhaps a ridiculous play on words. There are however some very clear points that Labor and the Greens have made which the Liberals flounder about. Both Labor and the Greens have clear targets for renewable energy. Those targets are in the same ball-park and give a clear pointer to the renewables industry to come back to Australia, there is a future for you here.
The second point relates to Labor's emission target by 2050. It is based on the science of global warming and relates to the so called the tipping point. If we don't reduce green house gases in time we may not have a habitable environment let alone an economy. Howard has consistently ignored that reality. It is sensible to recognise and set your necessary end goal and then work out how to reach it with the minimum of diturbance. That is what labor is doing.
Arguements about strategy and tactics in taking others along with you depends on the atmospherics of the occasion. The important thing is to be there in the room and to participate in the debate. It is that important opportunity that Howard has denied Australia by refusing to ratify Kyoto. The French are already talking about sanctions against Australian trade goods, if we do not pull our weight we will lose in the long term.


Watching Rudd on the 7.30 Report last night I wondered whether some of the absences on climate change exist because it's so hard to get the whole message into a quick sound bite.

Out of all the various aspects the signing of Kyoto is the most easily accessible and strongly symbolic part other than the coal industry, and there's no point the Liberals attacking Labor on that if the coal industry keeps on supporting Labor policy.

The most easily understood thing that differentiates the two parties is the signing of Kyoto and whatever comes after it. Rudd was arguing that if we don't sign Kyoto there's no point talking about anything else because we won't be invited to participate. It strikes me as a very simple message.

Great points from Gratton and Lyn.
Gary is correct to note the nerviness of Rudd on social issues and issues of conscience. He is relatively a tyro and a bit 'green', if readers will 'scuse the pun. But remember Howard is no solution- he and Costello are moribund and they deseve no further rewardin. If Rudd Labor fails to shape up then they can be thrown out later, but no more rewarding of Coalition bad behaviour in the mean time, puhleese!
The more enlightened here will probably want to lynch arcane me if I say that we should not commit unilaterally to emmissions cuts without reciprocal actions from developing countries.
We are told higher carbon emmisions are ok for developing countries, but the sight of Calcutta, Shanghai and Beijing filled with traffic, and the skies polluted thick- grey at locations where people used to sensibly get to work on pushbikes, reminds this writer how flawed the "development" argument actually is.
Commodity fetishism
inculcated into a population is not the same thing as providing basic material and social infrastructures, which was the goal the Chinese leadership at least seemed to pursue until recently.
Simplifying, developing economies are becoming too much about exchange value and not enough about use value and I fail to be convinced that we should should therefore be prepared to unthinkingly acquiesce without question to increased carbon emmissions from these societies.
Probably this as close to Howard as I'll get on a position, but I beleive it and I'll say it.

agreed. But we need targets for 2020 as well as 2050. Labor has been too vague on this up to now.

I suspect that Garrett has kept his mouth shut on forests so that he could have a go at climate change.

But it is not clear how different his policy is from that of the Coalition. It needs to be as Costello and Swan appear to singing from the same hymn sheet on the economy.

The Howard and Rudd consensus, to the effect that Australia would require "appropriate commitments" from developing countries such as China and India before it would sign any new international deal on climate change

maybe. But the idea of a tipping point is not too difficult to get across surely. People are out there on the internet looking at this stuff.

we have Mark Vaile, the Deputy Prime Minister, out on the hustings still spruiking drought. How long do droughts have to last before they cease to be cyclical and become climate change?

the developed countries have to take the first steps.As Kenneth Davidson argues in The Age:

The developed countries, including Australia, are responsible for 76 per cent of the greenhouse pollution now in the atmosphere. Australia even manages to contribute more than twice the level of emissions of countries such as Germany, Britain, Japan, Italy and France, which are all far more advanced industrially than Australia and all have per capita incomes close to that of Australia.

He says that Australia would be doing the health and wealth of its citizens a favour by restructuring its economy away from energy and material-intensive industries and towards information-intensive industries and greener cities.

The ALP's position is confusing. Rudd's position was that it was "absolutely fundamental" that developing nations sign up to Kyoto emissions targets,after he forced Peter Garrett into an embarrassing backflip on Labor's policy for stating the standard ALP position.

Garrett had said that the inclusion of developing nations China and India - major greenhouse gas emitters - was "not a deal-breaker" to Labor signing on to a post-Kyoto climate accord if the party wins the federal election. By the evening he said it was a pre-requisite.

Mr Rudd has said on ABC radio this morning that any deal would be sent back to the drawing board if developing nations refused to sign. He had said yesterday that developed nations should show leadership by signing on first.

They are at sixes and sevens on this after Howard said it was a policy to "reduce Australian jobs", not to reduce Australian emissions.

So where is the difference with the Coalition?

Howard is deliberately muddying the waters on climate change to downplay the differences as well as punch the ALP for the differences that exist.

The ALP in response doesn't want to frighten people or appear to be extreme . So they sign Kyto and have strong mandatory renewable energy target--ie., the 20% target.

Where is the emphasis on reducing greenhouse pollution?

Surely, its not to hard to get across the idea that the Kyoto Protocol imposes emission reduction targets only for the industrialised nations.

So an amended Kyoto Protocol will be required if new obligations are to be accepted by developing nations for the post-2012 period: a huge challenge, as most such nations reject this idea.

So what to do? It's a debate about the future: the debate about the next commitment period, beyond 2012, now the subject of intense global negotiations, to be resumed in Bali in December. The core issue in these talks is whether developing nations, will be brought inside the tent and have new obligations imposed on them.

All year the ALP has exploited the Kyoto symbolism of climate change with political brilliance. Howard decided to fight Rudd on the symbolism of Kyoto.


Since I made the last comment I've been trying to work out exactly what Labor is going on about but their arguments all sound pretzel shaped.

I have two tentative conclusions - either they don't really have a clear idea of what they're doing or they're unwilling to make it clear for the time being.

In light of the election and the need for business and industry, particularly coal industry, support all they really have to do is set targets and say they're working on a carbon price, which is what they seem to be doing.

I'm reading the new Griffith Review at the moment which is about Australia's relationships with neighbouring countries. Admittedly what you're reading at any given time can influence the way you view the world, but it seems to me that there's not really much point talking about getting China or India to do anything until those countries know our election outcome. Rudd can hardly stand up in public and say China is more likely to be responsive to Rudd Labor than Howard coalition. But it seems reasonable to me that future agreements would hinge on Rudd-style diplomatic relationships. Yes? No?

Well, Gary, am glad you replied to Nan in the manner in which you did. I was thinking yesterday, listening to Howard, that an embryonic wedge was on the verge of being implemented to freak out the electorate.

It is way too late for contemplation of the little varmit and his cronies like Brough wiggling their way out the rat sack yet again, a la Tampa/Kids overboard, except as a nightmare scenario.
The sad thing I heard on radio today was Iemma's "idea" about privatising the Sydney ferries. More nineteenth century thinking for twenty first century problems, to break the hearts and spirits of realists.

Clean coal is going to be difficult to achieve. Sydney alone would produce a cubic kilometre of compressed carbon dioxide every day as a result of the process.

We can you find an underground box big enough to store that every day - there is nowhere big enough to put it? The ocean is not an option.

One cubic kilometre of CO2 to get rid of every day is too much for underground caverns.

Australia's failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol will limit its influence at next month's United Nations climate talks in Bali, making it take a "low-profile role" in some of the key discussions.

These discussions include whether developed countries will agree to cut their emissions by up to 40 per cent by 2020 and 90 per cent by 2050 to avoid dangerous climate change.These figures are much higher than those contemplated by either the Coalition or Labor.

Gary: "How long do droughts have to last before, etc, so on..."
Gary, they are caused by union thugs.
That's why we are having an election. To get rid of them. Anyone who can sufficiently think for themselves to be a trade unionist, that is.
Once they are gone, the droughts will go away. I thought everyone knew that. But you will have to vote the coalition back in first, before it can actually happen.
What's that you say... what happens if Howard gets back in, gets rid of the unions and the droughts STILL don't go away?
Well, at least the unions will be gone and no more finance for Labor, obviating the need for this costly two-party "democracy" nonsense. Didn't work that well anyway, you'll answer if you're honest
Too many nasty things turning up about nice people like Richard Pratt, with this "accountability" thing, you'd agree.
The new post-democracy thing will be so much more quiet, simplified and efficient.
Like just use up productive time questioning where I get my quid from or grizzling about that work safety nonsense and we just put you on a cattle-truck bound for Woomera and you can do forced labor in the desert.
And, making sure there is no water wastage, you can kark it pretty quick smart in the heat and dust and then get left there as fertiliser, which also incidentally ameliorates the cost of bringing you back when your sentence is done.
A case of "mind over matter".
We don't mind; you don't matter...".


Somebody in Crikey's feedback recently observed that it always rains more under Labor governments. Apparently if you match the history of rainfall the patterns match the fortunes of federal Labor. There's a great campaign slogan in there just begging to be splashed across a lectern.

Yes, yes, YES, Lyn!!
I gotcha ( I think ).
" forget ALP solar renewables- it won't happen".
" for a sunny future, vote coalition".
Whaddya reckon?!

there is still some difference between the political parties on climate change despite the overall dynamics of fear and anxiety on this issue.

The Coalition has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. It's most notable climate policy announcement, made just before the start of the campaign proper, was its pledge to create a 15 per cent clean-energy target for 2020. The fine print shows that it will only increase the proportion of electricity supplied by low-emission sources by about 3per cent.

Labor's claims to climate superiority were based primarily on two issues: ratification of the Kyoto Protocol, a long-term emission reduction target of 60%, and a clean energy target of 20 per cent by 2020, which would result in a 10 per cent increase in the proportion of electricity supplied by renewable energy.

There is aa greater commitment to renewable energy by the ALP.